Skunks falling for cats may seem a wee bit cartoonish, but there's a bizarre love triangle going on with rats in reality: Toxoplasma-Infected Rats Attracted to Cats... "When most rats sense a cat nearby, they flee in fear. When a Toxoplasma-infected rat senses a cat, he falls in love."
Cat Odors Activate Sexual Arousal Pathways in Infected Rats...
"A fascinating phenomenon in behavioral biology is the ability of parasites to manipulate host behavior for their own benefit...
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate, single-celled protozoan parasite capable of crossing into the central nervous system of any warm-blooded vertebrate. Toxoplasma requires the cat intestine to reproduce sexually, is shed in cat feces, and must make its way from the ground to another cat host.
Toxoplasma manages this in part by infecting ground-dwelling rats who, remarkably, begin selectively preferring areas with cat urine. Infected rats retain normal defensive behavior to non-feline predator odor and normal performance on memory, anxiety, fear and social tasks. This specific preference for cat odor is likely an adaptive manipulation by Toxoplasma, increasing infected rat predation rates and facilitating Toxoplasma transmission to the cat."
Hmm, are we in a rat race, or was it a cat fight... pick your battles?
In theory, this parasitic manipulation of host behavior can affect people in one way or another: How and why Toxoplasma makes us crazy... "For a long time, a latent toxoplasmosis, the lifelong presence of dormant stages of Toxoplasma in various tissues, including the brain, was considered harmless for immunocompetent persons. Within the past 10 years, however, many independent studies have shown that this parasitic disease, with a worldwide prevalence of about 30%, could be indirectly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths due to its effects on the rate of traffic and workplace accidents, and also suicides. Moreover, latent toxoplasmosis is probably one of the most important risk factors for schizophrenia. At least some of these effects, possibly mediated by increased dopamine and decreased tryptophan, are products of manipulation activity by Toxoplasma aiming to increase the probability of transmission from intermediate to definitive host through predation."
This kind of biological bewitchment also reminds me of the movie Fallen... "Hobbes explains that he has poisoned himself, which will leave Azazel without a host... Azazel takes possession of Hobbes' body and frantically attempts to flee, but succumbs to the poison and dies. Hobbes, in voiceover, reminds the viewer this is the story of how he almost died, revealing that he is really Azazel. A cat, who has been possessed by Azazel, emerges from underneath the cabin and begins heading back to civilization."
Crazy cat ladies are less likely to land on their feet (when thrown from a vehicle)
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My parents had a cat before I was born. He didn't play well with a newborn so they put him down when I was little.
I had two cats most of my childhood. One lasted about 8-9 years the other lived an astonishing 24! That one went outside regularly. We lived in a garden style apartment and everyone in the neighborhood knew her. Also she never crossed the street so she had lots of territory to cover just chasing birds and mice out of the hedges. I think by any metric she had a good life for a cat.
My next one was sort of an accident and something of a tragedy. My brother in law was a marine, pre 9/11. He did his stint and got out. He found this kitten in a boiler room and took it in. Thing was all kinds of sick. Probably spent $2k on it in medical over it's life. Well 9/11 happened and he got re-activated. So he gave the cat to my in-laws. That lasted about 2-3 months when Pop tried to manhandle the cat and she told him NO in no uncertain terms. Scratched him up good and gave him an infection. They were going to either put her down or (pop being pop, throw her into the east river. He's kinda old school, not in a good way.) so I said I'd take her.
She was a "doesn't play well with others" pet. Which was fine. I had a lot of experience with felines and my wife was learning as well. You learned to "read" a cat. Look for when she wanted to be touched and when she wanted to be left alone. What was a warning and what was attack mode. We put off having kids because of that cat. We knew it wouldn't end well.
Ultimately when I lost my warehouse job and pursued getting a CDL I had to come up with another arrangement while I went OTR. Wife moved back with her folks (remember Pop?) so my mother, who had cats for years too, took "the problem child." Unfortunately she made the mistake of letting the neighbors kids feed the cat when she would be away. It was only a matter of time. The kids wanted to play with "the kitty" and they got what for. Neighbors gave mom an ultimatum, "cat or cops." (Mom had done this in the past with my 24 year old cat and my neighborhood friends, but this was a different cat and this is a different era.) so the angry fuzzball was put down.
My latest cat is, ironically, also mom's fault and initially against my advice. Mom got a new house closer to us and, finally free of apartment living, insisted she get a dog for the first time in 40 years. Meanwhile my wife was insisting we get a pet for my son. (Funny side story, I'd been lobbying for a rabbit. I never had one and I wanted something bigger than a hamster but less commitment than a cat. Rabbits average 3-5 years. But my wife was against it because her brother got bit by one when he was little. Her brother,,, that grew up to be a Marine? Yeah he's okay honey. But no rabbit for me.)
So as mom went through the laborious process of adopting her shelter puppy (lots of paperwork and medical. Took about 2 weeks and there were some schedual mistakes made by the pound.) well we were supposed to pick up her dog on (we'll call it Tuesday) and the whole family went. While she was in with the vet my son wanted to "test drive" the cats. (Which is something the pound doesn't really like to do unless you're serious, talk about a hard sell. And we'd been there about 3 times in two weeks so the staff knew us at this point and we're kinda reluctant to let us "play" with the cats if we weren't adopting.) Well my kid was over the moon and my wife was like "please please please" and I was like, "why do I have to be the bad guy and say 'no'?" We had discussed all this before, went over all the reasons why this wouldn't work, and now my wife was putting me on the spot in front of my kid and the shelter staff. Which kinda made me angry.
Which is when this fella, unprompted, decided to "climb me" from ground all the way up to my shoulders and sniffed my beard and ears. (Wife says it looks like he whispered in my ear, "pick ME!" She loves that story.) Well sometimes you've got to look at all your options and plans and do the WRONG thing. So I took the little black muffin home that day.
Yeah. Wouldn't change it for the world.
"A house cat is valued by humans for companionship and for its ability to hunt rodents..."
"Scientists therefore assume that African wildcats were attracted to early human settlements in the Fertile Crescent by rodents, in particular the house mouse (Mus musculus), and were tamed by Neolithic farmers. This commensal relationship between early farmers and tamed cats lasted thousands of years. As agricultural practices spread, so did tame and domesticated cats..."
"Life in proximity to humans and other domestic animals has led to a symbiotic social adaptation in cats, and cats may express great affection toward humans or other animals. Ethologically, the human keeper of a cat may function as a sort of surrogate for the cat's mother, and adult housecats live their lives in a kind of extended kittenhood, a form of behavioral neoteny. The high-pitched sounds housecats make to solicit food may mimic the cries of a hungry human infant, making them particularly difficult for humans to ignore..."
"Although cat guardianship has commonly been associated with women, a 2007 Gallup poll reported that men and women in the United States of America were equally likely to own a cat."
"Another poorly understood element of cat hunting behavior is the presentation of prey to human guardians. Ethologist Paul Leyhausen proposed that cats adopt humans into their social group and share excess kill with others in the group according to the dominance hierarchy, in which humans are reacted to as if they are at, or near, the top..."
"Cats are obligate carnivores: their physiology has evolved to efficiently process meat, and they have difficulty digesting plant matter. In contrast to omnivores such as rats, which only require about 4% protein in their diet, about 20% of a cat's diet must be protein..."
"Cats do eat grass occasionally. A proposed explanation is that cats use grass as a source of folic acid. Another is that it is used to supply dietary fiber, helping the cat defecate more easily and expel parasites and other harmful material through feces and vomit..."
"Cats can be infected or infested with viruses, bacteria, fungus, protozoans, arthropods or worms that can transmit diseases to humans. In some cases, the cat exhibits no symptoms of the disease. However, the same disease can then become evident in a human. The likelihood that a person will become diseased depends on the age and immune status of the person. Humans who have cats living in their home or in close association are more likely to become infected, however, those who do not keep cats as pets might also acquire infections from cat feces and parasites exiting the cat's body. Some of the infections of most concern include salmonella, cat-scratch disease and toxoplasmosis."
Last edited: May 3, 2019
Reason for edit: You learn somethin' new every edit too.
Last edited: May 3, 2019
Reason for edit: nostalgeek?
Shining a Light on Toxoplasmosis in Hawaii
"The disease is considered one of the 'Big Three' threats to monk seals in the main Hawaiian Islands, the others being trauma and interactions with certain kinds of fishing gear."
Also, there's a Public health warning as cat parasite spreads to Arctic beluga whales.
Likewise, a type of catfish is listed as one of the scariest parasites in the world (and that's what you get for peeing in a river).
Water seems to be the most common factor; it really does rain cats . . .
"In general, the highest prevalence of positive carnivores, rodents, and sheep was in the coastal region below 100 ft elevation, where the weather is cool and damp for much of the year. In the central valley the highest prevalence among sheep was in areas under irrigation. The prevalence of antibodies was lowest in the mountain areas, where climatic extremes occur."Last edited: May 4, 2019
Reason for edit: 'it rolls downhill
Honestly I don't think we've domesticated cats. I thinks they've domesticated us.
They found a species that will feed and shelter them and all they really have to do in return is not eat us like their bigger cousins would. Probably a smaller subspecies found out a long time ago (in Africa & the Nile) that instead of competing with the larger cats for prey they can rub up to the hairless apes and bat their eyes at them and get scraps.
Dogs definitely view humans as their pack leaders. Cats? We're their pets.
I'm feeling a little more superstitious at this point. I don't know about cats having nine lives, but T. gondii could, so I wouldn't follow the five-second rule, since it only takes one oocyst to cause infection. I might even boil my drinking water (or get hot drinks more often than not), since water treatment isn't nearly as exact of a science as heat treatment. Otherwise, keeping drinks on ice could help (except things like listeria can contaminate frozen food and fluid).Last edited: May 5, 2019
Reason for edit: food-borne-again
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